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S1 E11: 2020 Review of the Year

Hello.

It is fair to say that there is an overwhelming amount of CONTENT out there to consume. And Lord knows the world doesn’t need yet another 30-something bearded white male producing a podcast. So, despite all this, I just want to say a massive thank you to you for taking the time to listen to this particular show.

For those of you who haven’t listened before, I hope this episode gives you a flavour of what Five Rooms is all about, and maybe a little inspiration to check out some of the previous episodes.

For those who are new to the show, each guest is given 5 rooms to create an imaginary exhibition that tells their story. As guest curators, they have the chance to fill each room with the stories of their lives, the essential tools of their trade and the influences which guided them along the way.

On today’s episode, we’re going to listen back to excerpts from conversations with each of the 10 guests featured in the first series of Five Rooms.

Well, that was an interesting year.

I don’t think we’ll ever really understand the impact of everything that has happened this year. The general sense of foreboding, the rollercoaster of emotions and the lack of connection to friends and loved ones.

The whole reason I started this podcast was to have the chance to actually sit with people face to face to discuss their vocations and passions, because I believe it is so important to celebrate those people.

Ha, nice try! Said 2020.

On Saturday 19th December, here in London the government delivered the somewhat devastating news that we were banned from travelling this Christmas, 2 days before we were due to travel to see long overdue family. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go upstairs, lie on the floor and exorcise all of my rage by screaming into a pillow.

I don’t know about you, but I find it all too easy to paint 2020 as a year where absolutely nothing good took place. However, I really do think it is important to try and celebrate the small wins we have experienced this year.

Don’t get me wrong, I have struggled on a number of levels and have felt regularly overwhelmed and often ashamed of how easy it is for me to feel completely defeated. I miss spending proper time with loved ones, I miss buying a round of drinks, I miss going to gigs and dancing. Admittedly, no-one else misses my dancing, but still. I have close friends and family who need airtight hugs right now more-so than ever, and it breaks my heart over and over not to be able to deliver that love and support. The universe gave me long arms for a reason!

But even throughout the adversity of this year, there will be new perspectives realised that change the way we look at the world. Even on this podcast, the challenge of remote recording meant reaching out further afield, and connecting with people across the world in a way that I would not have done before.

This is in no way an attempt to belittle the tragedy, the loss and exhaustion of this year. I have seen friends lose loved ones, people burnt out from overworking and a massive spike in uncertainty from those in vulnerable industries.

I hope that as a society, we gain a newfound perspective on the people that matter most; those that need protecting and nurturing. Those who educate our children, care for us when we are unwell and those who give so much positivity into this world through the arts.

This podcast was always intended to celebrate those who contribute positively to this world. People from all walks of life who have been carrying on creating and making, finding new ways to work and express themselves.

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S1 E10: Will Foulser – CG Environment Supervisor

Will Foulser - CG Environment Supervisor

Will Foulser is a CG Environment Generalist Supervisor.

This may seem like a bit of a mouthful to those outside the visual effects industry, but fundamentally Will’s work involves creating beautiful and believable environments for feature film and television at DNEG, one of the world’s leading VFX and animation studios.

Growing up in South London, Will drew inspiration from a wide range of TV and film, and particularly from his mother’s talents as an accomplished artist. Never settling on one format, he spent his youth experimenting with model-making, photography, film and sketching, enjoying a wide range of ways to express his creativity instincts.

After studying Computer Animation at Bournemouth University Will established his career at DNEG working on night shoots to capturing camera data for Joe Cornish’s 2011 hit, ‘Attack the Block’. Since then, he has worked on a wide range of Hollywood blockbusters including ‘Interstellar’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Mission Impossible: Fallout’, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and ‘Les Misérables’.

Most recently, he has been involved in Christopher Nolan’s 2020 espionage thriller ‘Tenet’. The film, starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, follows an unnamed CIA agent as he embarks on a dangerous time-bending mission to prevent the start of World War III.

Chernobyl
‘Chernobyl’ (HBO/Sky)

Beyond the world of film, Will was Environment Supervisor for ‘Chernobyl’, the five-part miniseries co-production from HBO and Sky that dramatises the events of one of the worst man-made catastrophes in history, vividly retelling the story of the sacrifices made to save Europe and its people from unimaginable disaster.

The efforts by Will and the DNEG team were recognised at the 71st Creative Arts Emmy Awards with the award for ‘Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role’ for their work on the critically acclaimed series.

DNEG’s TV VFX team delivered around 550 visual effects shots for the series that included creating the RBMK-type nuclear reactor building inside and out, developing complex destruction and smoke simulations, and researching and designing never-before-seen shots, including peering into the burning reactor core.

Our conversation covers his formative years growing up in Dulwich, the often complicated relationship between Hollywood and the VFX industry, and resisting the temptation to express love to inspirational film makers.

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S1 E9: Lauren McCormack – Hair Stylist/Makeup Artist

Lauren McCormack is a makeup artist and hair stylist living in London.

After a career in TV production, Lauren made the executive decision to retrain in a personal passion of hers to become a full time hair and make up artist. Filled with a replenished spirit, switching paths resulted in a successful career working across multiple disciplines to bring makeup and hair to models, broadcasters and brides.

Makeup by Lauren McCormack

​Starting her makeup career in fashion and beauty, Lauren has assisted leading artists for publications including US Vogue, Glamour, Twin and Porter magazine. Her own portfolio includes work for brands such as Ted Baker, Matches Fashion and LK Bennett.

Makeup by Lauren McCormack

Through Bridal Beauty by Lauren, she brings her premium skills and expertise from the world of fashion into the wedding industry. With a cool, calm and collected approach, she works with brides and their wedding parties to create memorable and timeless looks.

Outside of fashion and editorial work, Lauren provides hair and makeup styling for pundits and presenters across a variety of sports broadcasting, and in 2019 was part of the ITV Sport team that brought coverage of the memorable Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Lauren McCormack behind the scenes on ITV Sport (Photo by Paul Grover)
Lauren McCormack behind the scenes on ITV Sport (Photo by Paul Grover)

Our discussion covers Lauren’s work across broadcast, editorial and bridal hair and makeup, as well as what it is really like to powder the broken noses of rugby legends.

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S1 E8: Pamia Coleman – Urban Gardener and Cooking Instructor

Pamia Coleman is an urban gardener and cooking instructor.

She teaches simple and affordable plant-based cooking classes and urban gardening in communities across Philadelphia, PA. Her work is routed in educating people of all ages how to achieve a healthy lifestyle through eating well and being active.

In 2016, Pamia Coleman and Latiyanna Tabb founded Black Girls with Green Thumbs. This not-for-profit organisation focuses on urban gardening and community engagement. With gardening workshops and community programming, Black Girls with Green Thumbs has grown into a community of seedfolk with a passion for garden in their homes and within their communities to heal, nourish, and learn.

Through Merkaba Wellness LLC, Pamia teaches how to use fresh and affordable vegan ingredients to create delicious meals for the whole family. In addition to this, she teaches healthy juice making, creating cold press organic natural juices.

Pamia Coleman teaching through Merkaba Wellness LLC
Pamia Coleman teaching through Merkaba Wellness LLC

I reached out to Pamia earlier this year and she graciously accepted my invitation to record our conversation in August 2020. I very much hope you enjoy our conversation about the art of patience, inspiring young people to eat well and learning to appreciate nature.

Reaching across the Atlantic

When I first started this podcast I had an ambition to record each episode in locations relevant to the guest. Whether in studios or on stage, I wanted to capture the atmosphere of the creative space. Then the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe and I had to rethink the way I produced each episode. Often when we are faced with restrictions, we are forced to change how we approach a problem differently in order to achieve our goals.

One consequence of COVID-19 is being made to think outside the box.

And when I say box, I mean country.

I realised there was an exciting opportunity to reconnect with Pamia, having seen her work flourish at a geographical distance via social media. Getting in touch with her made me nostalgic for the summer of 2007 when we first met.

I have a great fondness for the USA, having travelled across 13 states from California to New York a few years prior. In 2007, when presented with a chance to return to the US to spend a working at a summer camp through CCUSA, I leapt at the opportunity.

After an interview over the phone with Cary Hughes, I found out that I was assigned to Paradise Farm Camps in Downingtown, PA. Since 1875, the camp had a mission to connect children from Philadelphia to nature in rural Pennsylvania. At that point, the entirety of my knowledge of Philadelphia was somewhat limited to Will Smith’s performance in The Fresh Prince of Belair, so it is fair to say that I arrived excited but somewhat naive.

Paradise Farm Camps, Downingtown PA 2007
Paradise Farm Camps, Downingtown PA (2007)

I was employed as an Outdoor Living Specialist, which was nothing short of laughable in the eyes of my family who considered me to be a complete townie. It was a role I felt grossly under-qualified for, but somehow I muddled through and spent an unforgettable summer teaching kids how to fish, kayak, start fires (then put them out), build shelters and rock climb. Apparently, my British accent had enough exotic confidence to convince everyone that I knew what I was talking about.

13 years on, I can confirm that I did not.

It is a near-impossible task to convey how much this summer meant to me and the profound effect that it had on the way I view the world.

Paradise Farm Camps, Downingtown PA 2007
Paradise Farm Camps, Downingtown PA (2007)

For an inescapably white, middle-class male quite literally from a ‘Shire*, I ending up learning a lot about white privilege. I was raised to express appreciation and gratitude throughout my life, but through interactions and conversations with the young people, often living in challenging circumstances in the city, I learnt a newfound humility for my place in this world and for the opportunities I had so often taken for granted.

I learned a lot as well through the grace, intelligence and humour of my fellow counsellors, and was overwhelmed by the openness of the team. It would be remiss of me not to also mention the forgiveness I was shown for my questionable dance moves on the first night at camp, which was a crucial foundation in the building of these friendships.

I was embraced with a warmth that I hold in my soul to this day. The camp was intended to connect children to nature, but it also  worked its magic connecting me to some beautiful experiences and unforgettable people (far too many to name-check here).

I want this podcast to be celebratory and it is my honour to celebrate just one of those important people I met that summer.

*Buckinghamshire, to be precise

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S1 E7: Damion Burrows – Architect/TV Presenter

Damion Burrows is an architect and TV presenter.

With a critical focus on design, Damion Burrows is known for his inventive approach to architecture, often looking outside the given parameters of a project brief to present creative interventions and expressive architectural concepts.

Damion Burrows: Work in Progress
Damion Burrows

Damion started out studying Interior Design at Manchester University before continuing on to complete his formal Architectural training. This gave him a great understanding of both the interior and exterior of buildings and homes.

Ampersand - Darling Associates
The Ampersand Building, Soho

Over his career he has delivered a number of award winning new-build and refurbishment projects within the commercial and residential sectors.

5 Seaforth Place, Westminster
5 Seaforth Place, Westminster

After 11 years at Darling Associates Architects, he made the decision to launch his own studio Damion Marcus Burrows Architects. Born out of decades of experience, DMBA has been established with a clear mission to create a fair, sustainable and equitable practice.

Axtell Soho, London (Photography: Peter Landers)

Drawing on his extensive industry knowledge and passion for architecture and design, Damion can be seen on TV presenting the architect’s perspective for property programmes, such as Grand Designs: House of the Year, How to Live Mortgage Free with Sarah Beeny and Your Home Made Perfect. He has also been a judge on the RIBA South West Regional Awards and currently sits on the Lambeth design review panel.

In August 2020, in-between recording episodes of the latest series of BBC’s Your Home Made Perfect, Damion and I spoke remotely about all aspects of his work, from his early life growing up in Sheffield, to what its really like to establish a brand new architecture practice during a global pandemic.

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S1 E6: Lauren Ray – Singer/Songwriter

Lauren Ray is an independent singer/songwriter.

Lauren Ray - Singer Songwriter
Lauren Ray – Singer Songwriter

Based in London, Lauren has firmly established herself as an independent music artist. In 2016, Lauren released her debut album ‘We Will Need Courage’. Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, the album was released to critical acclaim.

Following this release she has toured extensively across the UK and Europe, supporting artists such as Anastacia, Rebecca Ferguson and Paul Carrack.

Lauren Ray

Alongside writing and recording her own creative projects, Lauren has written and collaborated with artists in a variety of genres.

Lauren penned and lent her vocals to US Trance Producer Jason Ross, featuring on his two hit singles Me Tonight and I Will Be There. Lauren has also written with UK and US country-pop artists such as Don Gollardo, Carey Ott, Beth Keeping and Emily Faye and UK soul/pop artist Monique Lawson. With her unique but catchy melodies and lyrical depth, Lauren is a songwriter that is quickly making a name for herself.

Our conversation took place in July 2020, a few months after her second studio album ‘Woman In The Arena’ was released. We cover numerous topics including what it takes to find your voice, achieving authenticity in songwriting in how different people interpret her music.

For more information about Lauren Ray visit laurenraymusic.com.

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S1 E5: Jack Good – 3D Artist

Jack Good is a video game artist, based in London.

Jack works in the games industry for Bossa Studios and has been involved with a number of highly successful video games, including the viral sensation Surgeon Simulator.

The initial version was created in a 48-hour period for the 2013 Global Game Jam; the developers continued and spent 48 days creating a commercial version. A sequel is due for release in August 2020.

Jack was also involved in Worlds Adrift, a massively multiplayer online video game, set in an expansive world that is permanently changed by players’ actions.

Worlds Adrift

We now live in an era where the video games industry is now bigger than both the movie and music industries combined. This huge landscape offers a wide range of different types of gaming for different people. So how do you differentiate your game in such a crowded market? Jack and I spoke remotely about the growth and expansion of the games industry, engaging with specific gaming audiences and what influences him in his work as a 3D Artist.

You may notice some issues with the audio which sadly highlight the limitations of remote recording, but I hope you still enjoy the episode regardless.

Rollo The Masterful by Jack Good
Rollo The Masterful by Jack Good

 

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S1 E4: Nazan Fikret – Soprano

Nazan Fikret is an operatic soprano.

Born in the UK to Turkish and Irish parents, Nazan Fikret studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and her singing career has led to numerous critically acclaimed operatic performances all over the world, most recently as Blonde in The Seraglio for the English Touring Opera.

Nazan Fikret as Blonde in The Seraglio, ETO (photo by Robert Workman)
Nazan Fikret as Blonde in The Seraglio, English Touring Opera (Photographer: Robert Workman)

She is a Britten-Pears Young Artist, a recipient of an International Opera Awards Bursary, was a finalist in the 2017 Das Lied International Song Competition, is an experienced recitalist, former Making Music Young Concert Artist and a Talent Unlimited musician.

As a coloratura soprano, she has the vocal dexterity to sing breathtakingly high notes. This agile vocal range has lead to performances such as the iconic Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute, which we discuss later in this episode.

Nazan Fikret as Queen of the Night in Opera På Skäret, 2019
Nazan Fikret as Queen of the Night in Opera På Skäret (Photographer: Andreas Hylthén)

Highlights in recent seasons include Queen of the Night Die Zauberflöte for Opera på Skäret, Garsington Opera and Rota das Artes, Lisbon; her Glyndebourne debut as Elin in Agreed, a new community opera composed by Howard Moody, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; Arasse Siroe, re de Persia and Handel’s Messiah for the Nederlandse Reisopera; and Euridice Orfeo ed Euridice for Longborough Festival Opera.

Pianist: Richard Black

I cannot claim to be the greatest opera aficionado, but to appreciate the power of someone like Nazan, you do not have to be. I have heard Nazan sing in person without amplification and I would liken the experience to the first time I heard a Formula One car going top speed back in 2007. It’s a sound that resonates through your body, shakes your bones and grips your heart.

Originally when I set out to create this series, I was keen to record each session in locations relevant to the guest. However, due to the COVID-19 lockdown, our conversation had to be shifted to a remote recording session.

Nazan kindly spoke to me from her home in July 2020. We cover her upbringing, her first performances and how to translate emotion through singing in a multitude of different languages.

If you’d like to see more of her work, please visit www.nazanfikret.com

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S1 E3: Jonny Glover – Illustrator

Jonny Glover is an illustrator and animator, currently working in London.

If you have flicked through a copy of the Guardian’s Weekend magazine, you may have found yourself looking over some of Jonny’s illustrations.

Jonny’s illustration style is instantly recognisable; there is this strong sense of wit and movement throughout all of his work.

Jonny-Glover-Books-Reading-Illustration-Spaceman-Sci-Fi-Space-imagination-colour-Book_Review-Illustrator-650.jpg
Fiction by Jonny Glover

Exaggerated and expressive composition is key, and more often or not, it’s his diverse characters and use of light hearted humour that make tricky subjects more accessible. Some of his clients include the NHS, The Guardian, The UN, The Barbican, The Financial Times and The Wellcome Trust.

 Guardian Weekend Magazine editorial illustration
Guardian Weekend Magazine editorial illustration by Jonny Glover

I spoke with Jonny in February 2020, in South London. It was great to talk through his influences and the encouragement from his family that has lead to his career as an illustrator. I would highly recommend that you have a look at Jonny’s website to see more of his work.

Recording with Jonny Glover (pre-lockdown), February 2020
Recording with Jonny Glover (pre-lockdown), February 2020

In the show, we discussed…

Saul Steinberg (Author of The Passport) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saul_Steinberg

Hergé (creator of Tintin)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herg%C3%A9

Calvin and Hobbes
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvin_and_Hobbes

Yoplait Advert (1966) by Raymond Savignac
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/e6/65/cf/e665cf0c1cdb357796dccffe1147dba4.jpg

The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey (1963)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIPvzfQbioc

And… of course. A portrait of a robust cow.

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S1 E2: Valia Gliati – Architect

Valia Gliati is an architect, currently working in London.

Originally hailing from the chaotic city of Athens, she is a Project Director at Darling Associates Architects, delivering exquisitely detailed homes and apartments.

Before lockdown, Valia kindly hosted our conversation back in February 2020 at her beautiful home in Battersea, South London. As you might imagine from an architect’s residence, it is an immaculate space; every aspect of her home is effortlessly chic and minimalist, which obviously takes a great deal of effort and consideration.

Battersea, London

Our conversation covers her early life in Greece through her approach to designing beautiful places to live in London.

Recording with Valia Gliati, February 2020
Recording with Valia Gliati, February 2020

Just before the interview, Valia revealed her sketchbook where she had been making notes about her proposal.

Valia Gliati's notes on her Five Rooms proposal

Valia Gliati's notes on her Five Rooms proposal

Valia Gliati's notes on her Five Rooms proposal

When I started this project, I was really excited to hear from a diverse range of voices and celebrate the different ways in which people will respond to being given a free rein with the Five Rooms. Her interpretation of the brief really blew my mind and I hope that you enjoy it too.

The next episode of Five Rooms will feature London based illustrator Jonny Glover. Don’t forget to subscribe to Five Rooms wherever you get your podcasts, so you never miss an episode.